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Do I Need a Boating License to Drive a Boat?

Gulfstream Boat Club Captain at the helm

Gulfstream Boat Club’s Captain Sebastian


People in Florida are starting to become as enthusiastic about boating as they were 15 years ago. As a result, people are buying and registering more boats in the state. When you buy a boat, you should know the laws before using it, but the laws for driving a personal watercraft aren’t quite clear. Are you wondering how to get a boating license? Do you need a license to drive a boat in Florida? 

If you want to learn about the requirements for boating and whether you need a boating license or not, keep reading to learn everything you need to know.

Boating License Requirements in Florida

Florida doesn’t have a boating license. Instead, boaters are required to complete an approved boating safety course. As a result, it never expires, and you never have to renew it (like you would with a license). 

It’s important to note that you don’t have to complete the course if you were born before January 1, 1988. However, if your birthdate is after that date and you want to operate a boat that has more than 10 horsepower, you have to pass the course first. 

You only have to pass the course one time. You’ll receive a Boater Education Identification Card that will be valid for life and prove that you have completed the training. 

How to Complete the Required Course

You have the option to complete the course online or in-person. You will have to pay a fee to take the course, but this fee is set by the location you choose.

To complete the course, you need to sign up online or by phone at an approved location.

If you choose to take the course online at the only free option available, BoatUS, you can expect it to take between 4 to 8 hours to complete. There are 6 lessons and each lesson has a quiz. 

At the end of the course, you’ll be required to pass an exam testing the knowledge that you’ve learned. 

Can Children Take the Course?

In the state of Florida, no one younger than 14 years old is allowed to legally operate a personal watercraft in any body of water. This is true even if they have a Boating Safety Education Identification Card.

In addition to that, adults that allow a child younger than 14 to operate a watercraft can also face serious legal consequences because it can be dangerous. 

With that being said, children can take the course and complete it at any age. They just won’t be allowed to legally operate a boat on their own until they are over the age of 14 years old. 

Florida residents between the ages of 12 and 18 have another option called the Florida Virtual School Outdoor Education Course. This is completely free and is the only course in the US that combines boating safety and hunting safety.

Students that complete this version of the course receive the Boater Education Identification Card, 0.5 high school credits, and credit for taking a public school physical education course. 

Are There Any Exemptions?

There are exemptions to the course requirement. These include:

  1. The person has a US Coast Guard “Master of a Vessel” license 

  2. The person is operating the boat on a private lake

  3. The person is a non-resident and has completed an approved boating safety class in a different state

  4. The person is accompanied on the boat by another person that has the Boater Education Identification Card and is 18 years or older 

  5. The person has purchased the boat within 90 days and has the bill of sale onboard (meeting requirements in Chapter 328.46(1), Florida Statutes)

  6. The person is accompanied by someone that is exempt from the course requirements and is responsible for the safe operation of the boat

If you’ve completed the boating safety course and have not yet obtained your identification card, you can still operate the boat legally.

You must have your government-issued ID and a certificate proving you completed the course onboard. The certificate has to include your first and last name, date of birth, and date of course completion.

This is only an option for up to 90 days after the course ends, so you’ll still need to make sure that you get the proper card in the mail. 

What if You’re Only Interested in Renting a Boat?

Remember that even if you’re not the owner of the boat, these requirements are still valid. If you’re renting a boat from the Gulfstream Boat Club, you do not need to acquire a Boater Education Identification Card, however you must be familiar with boat safety and proper boating etiquette. At Gulfstream Boat Club we require all members to complete a 1 hour orientation before their first reservation. This boat lesson is available to members and non-members as we cover all things boat safety. 

Are You Ready to Go Out on the Water? 

Although Florida doesn’t have a boating license, the required course is important for you to enjoy your time on the water and stay safe at the same time. 

If you’re ready to take full advantage of the beautiful water near you, it’s time to sign up for a Gulfstream Boat Club Membership. You can take advantage of all of the perks of owning a boat without the hassle!

Check out more information about our membership online today. 

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